John Betjeman Award

John Betjeman Award 2015

“Places of worship are… the history of English art displayed in living form…” - Sir John Betjeman

(Photos: 20th-century wall paintings at the Church of St Martin of Tours at Bilborough in Nottinghamshire, winner of the 2015 John Betjeman Award)

The award

The Award is given to celebrate excellence in the conservation and repair of places of worship of any faith in England and Wales.  It recognises and rewards the highest standards of conservation craftsmanship and the winning project is publicised as an  example to others of good practice. The Award takes the form of a scroll featuring a specially commissioned print by John Piper of the interior of Inglesham Church, a building much loved by Sir John Betjeman. The Award will be presented at the SPAB’s 2016 Members’ Meeting. 


The Award is made for the repair or conservation of the fabric, fittings or furnishings of historic churches, chapels or other faith buildings in England or Wales, which remain in use for worship. However, cathedrals of any denomination are not eligible.
It is not essential that the building is listed as being of architectural or historic interest. The age or architectural significance of the building is less important than the quality of the repair.


The Award is made to the place of worship and not to any individual responsible for the work.  It celebrates the project, the building, and the community that cares for it. The Award is given for specific repair to, or conservation of, a single element of the building, rather than a general programme of works.  Repair work of any scale is eligible, but it must be to the fabric of the building (e.g. roof, tower, wall, floor, window) or to a significant item of fixed internal fitting or furnishing (e.g. screen, monument, tomb, pews, pulpit). Work to enlarge or extend a place of worship, to rearrange its internal space, or to alter or adapt its fittings or furnishings is not eligible. The work must have received appropriate approval (Faculty or equivalent permission / listed building consent) and have been completed within the previous 18 months.

To enter

To enter please download the John Betjeman Award application form and return it to the SPAB, 37 Spital Square, London, E1 6DY by 23 February 2016. Before putting a building forward for the award please read The Purpose of the SPAB: an explanation of the conservation approach.

2015 John Betjeman Award winner

Sensitive conservation work to two 20th-century wall paintings at the Church of St Martin of Tours at Bilborough in Nottinghamshire has won this year’s award. The murals are the work of war artist Evelyn Gibbs (1905 -1991). The SPAB has also announced a commendation for repairs to the medieval choir stalls at St Mary, Nantwich.

Completed in 1946, the paintings depict the Annunciation and are positioned either side of the east window in the chancel, Mary to the left and Gabriel to the right. They are broadly in the tradition of 14th -century Italian murals, with the figures charmingly situated in the old village setting of Bilborough itself. The paintings were ‘lost’ during the construction of an extension in the 1970s.

Although their possible survival (beneath layers of emulsion) was identified in 1990s, no work was undertaken until they were rediscovered in 2009 by workmen re-wiring the church. The project was not straightforward, requiring the removal of a 1970s ceiling in the chancel.  Work on the paintings began in September 2014. The conservation team, Tobit Curteis, Bianca Madden and Claudia Fiochetti carried out initial cleaning and repairs, particularly to areas of the Mary mural where the original painting had sustained water damage. In addition, Gabriel had been marked by graffiti. Conservators Saskia and Joy Huning were also on site during the early weeks of the project to carry out colour matching and make full size templates of the original paintings.

Award Shortlist

St Edmund, Warkton (Northamptonshire) – conservation of monuments
All Saints, Godshill (Isle of Wight) – repair of window
St Botolph, Botolphs (West Sussex) – repair of roof